Kelly emailed me with a great question. I know her challenge is something many small business owners encounter, so I thought you might find it useful.
Here’s an excerpt from Kelly’s email, shared with her permission, along with my answer.
“I started my business in 2009 and though it grew for the first 4 years things have been flat ever since. […] My main problem Jim is that I know I need to grow my business but that means changing things and it feels too risky. I carry on doing what I do because the risk factor stops me doing what I need to do. Why am I self sabotaging?”
Like many, (perhaps most), small business owners, Kelly fears making some of the improvements needed for success. It’s easy to see why: Improvements require change and change feels risky. So, she repeats what feels comfortable, she works hard and hopes things will improve.
The challenge with that approach, as Kelly has discovered, is that it doesn’t work. It’s limited. Extremely limited.
Here are just some common examples of what happens, when we try to avoid risk:
- We fail to get noticed. To get noticed we need to stand out, which feels risky. Riskier than simply working hard and staying in the background.
- We fail to be remembered. To be remembered, we need to do something extraordinary. The ordinary is within our comfort zone. The extraordinary is, by default, outside our comfort zone. And leaving our comfort zone feels risky.
- We fail to attract word of mouth referrals. People only remark on a business when it does something remarkable. It feels risky to deviate from the norm.
- We fail to attract the best clients and the highest fees. Offering a premium service and charging a premium fee, feels risky. Risky enough for just a tiny percentage of business owners in your industry to even try.
- We fail to deliver exceptional work for our clients. To do exceptional work, we need to risk delivering something different.
- We fail to work on the best projects. The best projects go to those who operate at the top end of their marketplace. These are the providers who are daring enough to tackle the trickiest challenges. The mavericks. Maverick work feels way, way riskier than doing average work.
When I work with a client on this challenge, I start by explaining how change is essential, if they want to grow a great business. Because no change equals no improvement. I then work out what’s blocking them and show them how to overcome it.
If you know there are things you should improve, which you’re not doing because the change feels risky, press pause!
Find out why you associate risk to the safest thing you can possibly do. Then develop a strategy for growth. That’s how you start the process of taking your business to another level. And another level…